By Darin Skaggs
We live in a time of reimagining classic tales like bringing back old cartoons like Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or any of the countless like action Disney retellings like the wonderful Cinderella from earlier in the year or the garbage films like Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland. Joe Wright, who has taken on his own remake version of familiar stories with films such as 2005’s Pride and Prejudice and 2011’s Anna Karenina has taken on another classic literature tale with Pan. Now this is not the romantic love story of Peter Pan and Wendy, this takes its premise from recent superhero movies and tells the story of the young adventure’s origin story.
It all starts during the middle of World War II and Peter (Levi Miller) is a young boy, trapped in a despicable orphanage with an equally despicable nun who runs the place. After some playful troublemaking that takes place during an intense bombing near the war torn town they live in Peter is caught by the scary and seemingly fearless nun. Peter fears he will end up like the other missing orphans, and that comes true when he wakes up to his comrades being picked off by bungee jumping pirates who are all aboard a flying ship. And so starts a surreal, odd experience that so begins the legend of Peter Pan.
The whole plot here is convoluted, Peter befriends Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and they try to take down Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who rules a floating island with thousands of slave boys who spend each and every day digging up magic rocks that keep Blackbeard from aging. Eventually, they gain the help of the locals including Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) who share a useless romantic interest in Hook. Sometimes the movie works, sometimes it doesn’t. It is really brought down by the little nods that this is a Peter Pan story with Tinkerbelle making a small and unneeded cameo and a character literally saying “He [Peter] is a lost boy, isn’t he?” Frankly, the whole movie would have worked better if it had no association to the Pan storylines. If it was just a coming of age story about magic and pirates then it might work more. The Peter Pan mythology could have just been a influence, but it could have been its own thing. The acting is up in the air, Miller does fine for his age and Jackman is giving a decent crazy performance. Hedlund is doing his best Jack Nicholson impression and unfortunately it is not very good. So many questions to ask the people responsible for why that performance is the way it is. It in no way matches the tone of the film or the other actor’s performances.
The whole movie is decent, but what makes it all worthwhile is the weirdness and surrealistic choices that Wright makes. When arriving in Neverland, which immediately follows the escape from World War II War torn London is the thousands of captured victims in Blackbeard’s possession are singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana as an anthem that pumps up Blackbeard’s ego. Other crazy choices like the look of a crazy race of birds or how the natives die really make the film flow and might even be worth watching. Pan is a mess, too many little pokes at the Peter Pan story especially the final line which is so bad and nearly sours the whole experience. The visual and creative choices are interesting enough to suggest people watch this.